Under the screen of the arms race in the Middle East, conditions of life under Israeli military rule in the occupied territories have worsened considerably in recent months. Settlements, land expropriations and attacks against West Bank inhabitants have accelerated dramatically. Settler vigilantes abuse Palestinians at will. When Palestinians react with demonstrations, Israeli troops are at the ready. Curfews, beatings, property destruction and arbitrary arrests are more than ever a part of everyday life.
The tactics pioneered by the Gush Emunim and Meir Kahane seem to have become the norm of official Israeli behavior. The deputy commander of the West Bank, defending himself in a military court against charges of allowing his troops to beat Palestinians being detained in a courtyard, claimed he was only following orders to “get tough.” When Defense Minister Ariel Sharon was asked what to do with demonstrators, the deputy commander testified, Sharon’s reply was “tear off their balls.” The same court, a few days earlier, handed down a three-month suspended sentence to a sergeant accused of shooting three students, killing one.
This is not the consequence of mindless racism, but part of a concerted effort to force Palestinians out of the West Bank. “All the demographic threats which the honorable demographers tried to frighten us with have turned out to be nonsense,” Prime Minister Menachem Begin told the Herut Party executive in November. According to figures released the same week by government statisticians, “residents of Judea and Samaria are leaving at the rate of 15,000 per year.” Since Jewish net emigration from Israel is also quite high (12,000 in 1982 was the lowest figure in three years), and the Jewish birth rate continues to be low, it seems clear that Begin plans to use his American-financed army of occupation and battalions of settlers to confound the demographers’ projections. The prime minister, a man with a swift and eloquent tongue, has not yet found it appropriate to comment on his defense minister’s prescription for Jewish-Arab relations.
One of the more hopeful developments of recent weeks was the meeting between Yasser Arafat and three prominent Israeli opponents of Begin and Sharon, including former general Matityahu Peled. Although several ministers have called on the government to prosecute the three for “treason,” it seems that neither Israeli law nor public opinion will support such a move.
In this light, we call readers’ attention to the case of Ehud Adiv, a Jewish Israeli now serving a 17-year sentence for treason. Adiv traveled to Syria in 1972 to meet with Palestinians who shared his goal of a socialist and democratic society in which Jews and Arabs could live as equals. “Over ten years ago, I was a young revolutionary, romantic and inexperienced,” Adiv writes in his petition for parole. “I worked under difficult circumstances of loneliness and hostility in the Jewish sector. I despaired of political persuasion and searched for an individual shortcut. I traveled to Syria with the aim of meeting Palestinian revolutionaries who shared my ideas. Never did I intend to spy, sabotage or establish a link with the Syrian intelligence service.”
Despite the fact that Adiv has served nearly 11 years with no disciplinary problems, his request last April for a four-day leave to be married was denied. He is now asking for the one-third reduction of sentence that is customary for prisoners with good behavior, lt is clear that the authorities will grant his parole only under public pressure. In the opinion of his family at Kibbutz Gan-Shmuel, the reason lies in his humane behavior toward Palestinian prisoners, his socialist convictions and his refusal to serve as an informer and collaborator with prison officials. The campaign to reduce Adiv’s sentence has the support of prominent Israelis, including the writer Amos Oz and the former deputy president of the Supreme Court, Justice Haim Cohen.
In Jerusalem, the Israeli High Court of Justice recently upheld a government decision to refuse Najwa Makhoul, an Israeli citizen, a permit to publish an Arabic weekly journal that would cover political, social, economic and literary developments. Neither the government nor the court has given any reason for the denial, citing “security reasons pertaining to the applicant and the journal.” The Association for Civil Rights in Israel is seeking support there and internationally in its drive to nullify the Emergency Regulations, inherited from the Mandate regime, which require a permit for publishing a periodical. The Association has condemned “the Kafka-like manner” in which Makhoul was denied her democratic rights and left unable to refute the “security” charges against her.